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7 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The investigations of the committee resulted in two major conclusions about the future uses of the seabed in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). First, it is highly probable that the uses of this region will increase in the next 20 years. These include exploration for and development of oil and gas resources, waste disposal, emplacement of cables for civilian and military purposes, harvesting of fisheries resources, recovery of certain hard minerals, and designation of cultural resources such as marine sanctuaries. Potential uses of the EEZ seabed related to a broader spectrum of mineral exploration and development, other biological resources, development of ocean energy systems and technologies, and recreational uses are less likely to expand significantly in the near term, but will probably become more important in the time frame beyond 20 years. The second major conclusion of this study is that for all foreseeable uses of the EEZ seabed, improved coordination and increased joint planning are needed to implement effective and efficient systematic mapping and surveying programs and develop or improve the technology needed to support them, improve access to and sharing of EEZ data, develop approaches for multiple uses, identity and resolve potential conflicts among various users, and ensure environmental protection. Such a strategy would provide the nation with the foundation for a coherent plan for developing its ocean territory. In order to accomplish these objectives, the committee recommends the following actions be initiated: -~~~~ rr---o COORDINATION AND PLANNING Economic and institutional pressures will lead to increasing use of the U.S. EEZ seabed for a variety of purposes, some of which are likely to conflict. Additional planning efforts among federal and state governments, industry, academia, and representatives of public interest groups will lead to more efficient, orderly, equitable, and environmentally sound development of EEZ resources. Recommendations 1. Congress should enact legislation that creates a formal joint planning and coordination process that includes a lead agency mandated to develop a national EEZ plan, an external commission composed of representatives of industry, academia, and public interest groups, and an internal interagency committee. Based on the recommendations and advice of the commission and interagency committee, and in cooperation with the coastal state governments, the federal government should formulate a national management policy for EEZ uses that identifies the needs of specific user groups and determines ways of enhancing cooperation and efficiency of operations 116
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117 among the various agencies and industries and identifying and resolving potential conflicts among users. 2. As part of the planning and coordination process, federal agencies with EEZ programs should pursue cooperative and joint agreements with coastal state governments in planning and implementing EEZ activities. SPECIFIC USES Certain uses of the EEZ will require special policy action at the federal level in order to plan for future development. For example, development of mineral resources and use of the EEZ seabed for waste disposal are potential activities that are unlikely to proceed until more comprehensive national policies are devised. Other uses, both existing and potential, will also benefit from improved regulatory policies. Recommendations The U.S. Congress should ensure that a coherent policy is developed that addresses specific concerns of industry and coastal states with regard to economic and environmental issues affecting the development of EEZ mineral resources. Appropriate agencies should provide the leadership to ensure development of the necessary science and technology for assessment, evaluation, and verification of critical hard mineral resources. 4. A comprehensive long-term national waste management policy based on an evaluation of waste disposal in all media, including land and ocean disposal options, should be formulated by Congress to provide a predictable framework for planning and developing acceptable ocean waste disposal strategies. RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT The seabed of the EEZ is a new frontier that includes a broad range of seafloor morphology, water depths, sediment types, and environmental conditions that affect its use. The complexity of the EEZ seabed requires multidisciplinary research efforts that are costly in terms of both technology and time required to obtain and analyze data. The various potential uses of the EEZ share the need for reconnaissance survey data and for task and site-specific information. The variety of acoustic and optical technologies for collection of bathymetry, bottom imagery, and near-surface sedimentary data are costly in time and resources. The mapping priorities and geographic areas of interest in the EEZ require further definition as a first step toward planning the efficient sharing of mapping activities, survey and ship time, and equipment. Deepwater areas of known or potentially high resource value and other potential uses should have higher priorities than those areas for which no use is envisaged in the foreseeable future. Recommendations 5. Research activities in the EEZ should be coordinated through a designated agency to enhance cooperation and efficiency of operations among various agencies, industries, and academia, and promote basic research efforts that will increase understanding of seabed processes in the EEZ. 6. As a part of the national EEZ plan, a formal government/industry/academia EEZ program should be established to set priorities for seabed surveying and mapping activities and promote the development of technologies for obtaining EEZ seabed data. The technological developments
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118 should include expanded use of multisensor systems for both task-specific and reconnaissance surveys in frontier areas, use of autonomous and towed vehicles, and improved techniques for processing and interpreting remotely acquired seabed data. 7. The agency designated to coordinate EEZ research activities should ensure that programs are set in place to develop the necessary technology for geotechnical and geological data acquisition in concert with the projected uses and needs. These systems and techniques will include improved sampling and in situ testing equipment for use from surface and submerged vessels in frontier areas, field monitoring of installations, and laboratory experimental modeling for seabed-structure interaction studies. 8. Government should provide leadership in fostering communication and exchange of data among all agencies and other organizations conducting research in the EEZ through development of a comprehensive EEZ data management system. ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING A clear need has emerged for a nationally coordinated and supported effort in monitoring selected portions of the EEZ seabed in connection with future uses. As EEZ use expands, the lack of such a program will increase the risk of inadvertent and unacceptable damage to the EEZ environment. The required monitoring will fall into three categories: (1) reference monitoring to determine the natural range and variability of environmental parameters of the EEZ seabed, (2) process-related monitoring to understand major EEZ seabed processes, and (3) use-related monitoring to evaluate the suitability of EEZ sites for specific uses and their environmental consequences. Recommendation 9. In conjunction with the joint planning and coordination process and the research efforts recommended above, a national EEZ monitoring program should be established with input from industry; federal, state, and local governments; academia; and public interest groups to determine EEZ monitoring priorities and strategies and the commitments by government and users required to implement them. Such a program should be based on the framework of projected uses of the seabed and should include long-term reference monitoring, seabed process-related monitoring, and use-related monitoring at specific sites. It should also incorporate the capability to respond to detrimental impacts. PROTECTION OF UNIQUE AREAS Identification and protection of unique underwater areas and habitats under the National Marine Sanctuaries Program has to date been a limited effort. In order to designate and subsequently manage a marine sanctuary, a substantial amount of information is needed on the resources and physical environment of the area. Recommendation 10. Federally sponsored EEZ activities should include a marine sanctuary reconnaissance component for discovery and identification of unique areas of the seafloor deserving such long-term protection. Such designations should occur well in advance of resource development in EEZ areas to forestall potential conflict among competing uses.